Werner Egk

Werner Egk

Born: May 17th, 1901
Died: July 10th, 1983
Country of origin: Germany

Upcoming:

Peer Gynt
Conductor: Evan Christ
October 2nd, 2014 | Staatstheater - Cottbus - Germany

Profile

Werner Egk was born in Auchsesheim (now district of Donauwörth), Bavaria, as Werner Mayer on 17 May 1901. In 1921 he studied theory, composition and conducting with Carl Orff in Munich. In the same year Egk worked at a theatre in Schwabing as stage manager, scene painter and director of incidental music. In 1922 he started studying philosophy and musicology (with Adolf Sandberger) at the Munich university. Since his marriage with the violinist Elisabeth Karl in 1923 he called himself Werner Egk. After one year in Italy (1926/27) he returned to Munich and worked as musical director of an orchestra at a cinema. One year later he moved to Berlin, where he came into close contact with a.o. Kurt Weill, Erich Mühsam, Jürgen Fehling, Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator, but returned to Munich in the same year. At this time he started working for the radio, creating several works for the new medium.

The world premiere of his opera Die Zaubergeige [The Magic Violin] (Frankfurt 1935), being one of the most popular operas in Germany for the following years, marked the beginning of his international career as an opera composer. In 1936 he became conductor at the Berlin State Opera, and in 1941 he was appointed chairman of the Composers Board at the Reichsmusikkammer. After the world war Egk continued his courageous defence of the rights of composers, working in key positions at the GEMA and with international collection societies, such as a chairman of the Composers Board at the GEMA (since 1950), as president of the German Composers Association (since 1954) and as president of the German Music Council (since 1968).

The first scenic performance of Abraxas in Munich in 1948 attracted special attention, as the ballet was banned by the Bavarian Minister of Cultural Affairs, Alois Hundhammer, after five performances. From 1950-53 Egk worked as professor of composition and director at the Musikhochschule in West Berlin. In 1954 Staatsintendant Rudolf Hartmann commissioned him to rehearse and direct all performances of his operas and ballets at the Bavarian State Opera. This contract terminated after 20 years during the period of office of Hartmann's successor Staatsintendant Günther Rennert. For his musical oeuvre, which covers almost every musical genre, Egk has been awarded a.o. the Honorary Arts Award of the city of Munich (1972), the star of the Grand Cross for Distinguished Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (1970), the Gold Medal for Science and Art of the city of Munich (1966), the Order of Merit of Bavaria (1962) and the Berlin Arts Award (1950).

Werner Egk died in Inning on 10 July 1983.